Being myself both a fan of Jane Hamilton's books and a pianist, how could I not like this book?!? However, this story isn't really so much about the main character's music, as it is about the complexities that evolve in her life during the year of her affair with a fellow musician. Jane Hamilton is a master at capturing the unspoken nuances of gesture and mood that create atmosphere that is almost palpable. A great book.
(From Amazon.com) A wayward wife, an Oedipally obsessed e-mail snoop, a pint-sized Civil War reenactor (oops, make that living historian), and a cheerfully oblivious cuckold comprise the Shaws of Chicago, the decidedly quirky characters of Jane Hamilton's fourth novel, Disobedience. An unlikely family to fall prey to the vagaries of modern life, the Shaws are consumed with clog dancing, early music, and the War Between the States. But they do possess a computer, and when 17-year-old Henry stumbles into his mother's e-mail account and epistolary evidence of her affair with a Ukrainian violinist, he becomes consumed with this glimpse into her life as a woman, not simply a mother.
Very enjoyable book. Great detail into a sensitive teenaged boy's angst in coping with the knowledge that his mother is having an affair with someone she met over the internet, which he taught her to use. He's also dealing with a long-distance relationship, an extremely cool female friend (to whom he's not really attracted), and an eccentric and tom-boyish sister who is obsessed with the Civil War.
I loved Hamilton's "A Map of the World" and "The Book of Ruth", so had great expectations for this book. I got to chapter 6, before I started skimming through to the end, just to see what would happen to this family. Just didn't want to finish. As a mom of two teenage boys, I could not relate in the slightest to her portrayal of Henry, the teenage son who discovers his mother's infidelity. In my experience, boys of that age are so self-absorbed, in their sports, in girls, in their social lives, etc., that I cannot conceive of them being so wrapped up in their mom's life/loves. So many observations of his mother such as "she looked so lovely when she was alarmed" (and many, many more) are a foreign concept to most teenage boys regarding their mothers, in my opinion. A concern for the family staying together, for sure, would be understandable, but Henry's observations and thought processes in this book are just not believable to me at all. So, I gave this 3 stars, and sadly did not enjoy it as I have her other books.
Henry Shaw is a high school senior who, at seventeen years old, is about as comfortable with his family as any teenager can be. His father, Kevin, teaches history with a decidedly socialist tinge at the Chicago private school Henry and his sister attend. His mother, Beth, who plays the piano in a group specializing in antique music, is a loving, attentive wife and parent. Henry even accepts the offbeat behavior of his thirteen-year-old sister, Elvira, who is obsessed with Civil War reenactments and insists on dressing in handmade Union uniforms at inopportune times.
When he stumbles on his mother's email account, however, Henry realizes that all is not as it seems. There, under the screen name Liza38, a name Henry innocently established for her, is undeniable evidence that his mother is having an affair with one Richard Polloco, a violin maker and unlikely paramour who nonetheless has a very appealing way with words and a romantic spirit that, in Henry's estimation, his father woefully lacks.
Against his better judgement, Henry charts the progress of his mother's infatuation with Richard - her feelings of euphoria, of guilt, and of profound, touching confusion. His knowledge of Beth's secret life colors his own tentative explorations of love and sex with the ephemeral Lily, and casts a new light on the arguments - usually focused on Elvira - in which his parents routinely indulge. Over the course of his final year in high school, Henry observes each member of the family, trying to anticipate when they will find out about the infidelity and what that knowledge will mean to each of them. Henry's observations, set down a decade after that fateful year, are so much more than the "old story" that his mother deemed her affair to be.
I thought that this book was just okay - to my mind, the story could have been told more simply, without such intense focus being paid to Elvira's obsession about the Civil War. Disobedience by Jane Hamilton wasn't perhaps my favorite book of all time, but I am certainly still interested in reading more books by Jane Hamilton. I give Disobedience by Jane Hamilton an A!
A tale of a 17 yr old who delves into his mother's email and discovers she is having an affair. Ho hum, one might think, but that affair is not actually the lead plot. Told by the son, it is a coming-of-age story, his, and that of his 14 year old sister, a hardcore Civil War reinactor. The narrator does a wonderful job, always using just the right tone to convey the numerous ironies in the book, the humor, the anger. This is my favorite Jane Hamilton book so far, a very pleasant surprise.
New York Times notable book. A 17 year old boy reaches for adulthood and separation from his mother who is having an affair and his oblivious educator-father and sister obsessed with civil war reenactments. Wonderfully written.
never read...back of book says:
When 17 yr. old Henry Shaw discovers that allis not as it seems iwth his ordinary mid-western American family-that, in fact, his mother is having a passionate affair-he is unable to tell anyone. Neither his amiable father, a history teacher, nor his slightly offbeat younger sister, a spirited girl obsessed with Civil War reenactments, has any idea that their world is about to change.
This book is brand new, no marks, and has never been cracked open. I have had it and never read it. There is no picture with this decription, but the book is a large softcover, not a mass market paperback. The cover is nothing but an up-close shot of piano keys.
A wayward wife, an Oedipally obsessed e-mail snoop, a pint-sized Civil War reenactor (oops, make that living historian), and a cheerfully oblivious cuckold comprise the Shaws of Chicago, the decidedly quirky characters of Jane Hamilton's fourth novel, Disobedience. An unlikely family to fall prey to the vagaries of modern life, the Shaws are consumed with clog dancing, early music, and the War Between the States. But they do possess a computer, and when 17-year-old Henry stumbles into his mother's e-mail account and epistolary evidence of her affair with a Ukrainian violinist, he becomes consumed with this glimpse into her life as a woman, not simply a mother.
To picture my mother a lover, I had at first to break her in my mind's eye, hold her over my knee, like a stick, bust her in two. When that was done, when I had changed her like that, I could see her in a different way. I could put her through the motions like a jointed puppet, all dancy in the limbs, loose, nothing to hold her up but me.
While his mother (whom he refers to variously as Mrs. Shaw, Beth, and her e-mail sobriquet, Liza38), dallies with her pen pal, whom she calls "the companion of my body, the guest of my heart," Henry experiences his own sexual awakening; his 13-year-old sister, Elvira, retreats into gender-bending historical fantasy; and their father remains determinedly absorbed in pedagogical responsibilities.
Ironically (and not completely convincingly) narrated by an adult Henry, Disobedience has a rollicking tone somewhat at odds with the somber prospects that loom for this family. A very worldly teenager in some ways, despite the hippie wholesomeness of his family, Henry tells his tale in abundant, almost flowery prose, imagining his mother's private life with elegiac fervor. As in her earlier A Map of the World, Jane Hamilton writes with affection and insight about the darker side of apparently ordinary Midwestern folks.